ROTARY members from Minehead are donning their walking boots next week for a fund-raising walk to mark World Polio Day.

They will be walking a mile along Minehead sea front from the clock tower on Tuesday (October 24), starting at 11 am, and local people are invited to join the walk and/or sponsor them.

Thanks to Rotary’s four-decade long campaign to eradicate polio, 20 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralysed as a result of contracting the disease.

Minehead Rotarian David Yates said: “This fund-raising activity reminds us of the life changing difference eradicating polio is having.

“This disease can have horrendous consequences on those who contract it.

“That is why it is so important we continue to raise funds and protect children through vaccination at home and around the world.”

In the UK, polio is often thought of as a disease of the past and although it only endemic in two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, traces of the disease were detected in London sewage earlier this year.

Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) more than 30 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.99 per cent, from about 350,000 cases a year in 125 countries to just six cases reported in the first half of 2023.

To sustain the progress and to tackle circulating vaccine derived polio, around two billion doses of the vaccine still have to be given to more than 400 million children in up to 60 countries every year.

This is in addition to routine immunisations which happen elsewhere around the world, including in the UK and Ireland.

In 2015, David Yates spent a week in India helping to vaccinate children in Delhi.

Without full funding, political commitment, and volunteer-led social action, there is a real threat that polio could return, putting children worldwide at risk.

Rotary has committed to raising US $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts, with the funding matched two-to-one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary has contributed more than US $1.9 billion to ending polio since 1985.